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New Zealand Science Teacher

Science Curriculum/Scientific Literacy

Space seeds are looking for students to nurture them

Students are invited to have an out of this world gardening experience.

Ever thought about how beans grow in space? Register for Space Seeds and find out.

There’s still time to join in with the Space Seeds programme, which will have students growing plants in concert with the astronauts from the International Space Station.

To date, over 30 schools/classes have signed up to the programme, and will be growing their seeds as a control experiment to understand the effect gravity has on plant growth.

KiwiSpace education coordinator Haritina Mogosanu is managing the Space Seeds programme. She says it’s a great science outreach opportunity for New Zealand teachers and students.

“The programme is initiated by the Japanese Space Agency, so it’s really good for the students to have the chance to work with real-life scientists like this.”

Growing Space Seeds can be done by either primary or secondary science classes- with the teachers tailoring the learning as applicable. All the guidelines for participating in the project can be found on the Space Seeds website.

Haritina is also a senior science advisor at the Ministry for Primary Industries, who are also helping to support the seed programme.

About Space Seeds

In 2011, Japanese scientists collected seeds from several Asian countries and sent them to the International Space Station. The seeds were then returned to Earth, and used for various experiments.

This is the second round of ‘Asian Seeds’ . A batch of azuki beans will be grown for seven days onboard the Japanese module of the International Space Station, Kibo starting on the 30th of August 2013.

The progress of the beans will be filmed and the images sent back to Earth.

Seeds from the same batch have been shared with other countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including NZ, Indonesia, and Thailand, among others. The idea is that school students can get involved and learn more about how plants grow different in space, when we switch off gravitation.

Participants will grow the bean seeds in the same way as the astronauts on the ISS, then after seven days, the growth patterns of the seeds from Earth will be compared with the images transmitted from space.

Objectives of this activity include inspiring New Zealand students to think about space in different ways, learning about automorphogenesis and the International Space Station module Kibo.

Why study how plants grow in space?

Haritina, who visited the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah twice as an analog astronaut, attests to the fact that fresh produce becomes highly coveted after some consuming dehydrated astronaut fare for some time.

Studying how plants behave in microgravity, and how this affects their development, can greatly advance space discovery. If astronauts could grow their own food, they could enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables. The plants would also convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, as on Earth and act as a recycling station for the waste.

In addition, knowledge about how plants detect the gravitational force and construct their support structure will teach us more about how we can breed productive crops here.

Join in with the Space Seeds programme

Would you like to get involved? It’s not too late to order Space Seeds for your class!

You need to go to this page and sign up for both Step 1 and Step 2.

Limited seeds are available, so make sure you sign up promptly.

There’s also a chat page where you can discuss the space seeds with others.

What is inside the seed pack?

For experiment 1 (in concert with JAXA), you will receive a pack of azuki beans. Full instructions for conducting the experiment can be found here.

For the secondary experiment (which can be completed at your leisure) there is a pack of Impatiens balsamina which is a decorative plant. In 2011, a batch of these seeds visited the International Space Station and then returned to Earth.

Please take plenty of pictures from both experiments and submit them back to KiwiSpace!

The seeds are accompanied by a copy of a phytosanitary certificate to verify that they are free of diseases and pests that could affect New Zealand’s biosecurity, says a Senior Adviser at the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Find more information about the programme here.


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